Posted: 5 July 2018
The second week took the team to Kampala, Uganda, to serve alongside the Ugandan Christian Lawyers' Fraternity. I'd say fasten your seatbelt and buckle in for the ride, but as none of our minibuses in Kampala had seatbelts, cling on to your seats, because it's about to get bumpy…
Tuesday's first port of call was a Magistrates Court, to speak with the Chief Magistrate and observe a morning's list. I didn't know whether to be encouraged or disheartened that it could have been any magistrates court in England: backlogs of cases, litigants in person, courts full of people waiting to be called on… But the main difference is that in Uganda, legal aid is only available for cases carrying life imprisonment or the death penalty, which means that the backlog is higher as cases are slower and there are many more litigants in person.
Next stop: the British High Commission. Not only did we receive a beautiful cup of tea, but a full briefing on the work of DFID overseas. We conveyed the importance of the work done by UCLF, which was recognised by the Senior Governance Advisor as "very impressive".
The afternoon brought us a very different kind of meeting: school children! Despite a less formal setting, their questions were just as probing! Mark delivered legal education on the rights of the child, and Naomi taught them the importance of reporting sexual offences. There may have been a kitten meowing away on the beam directly above Naomi's head during the session, but the children really engaged with both topics. Alumnus Vincent (Acting ED, UCLF) conclude with an inspiring speech reminding children to study hard and make the most of their education.
At this juncture, it might be tempting to say something glib, e.g. education is a universal ticket out of poverty. But that isn't the case in Uganda. The World Bank quantified unemployment of those with advanced education in Uganda as 15% (UK: 3%). Throughout the week we met various educated individuals who either couldn't find work or had to travel significant distances to work – including crossing borders into neighbouring countries.
But some of the children in that school hall will follow in Vincent's footsteps – and for those lucky few, education is their ticket.